You could say that floral expert Lynda Felton has blooms in her blood. Her grandfather was a botanist, and her mom and stepdad were florists. So when I needed advice on how to up my floral game (’cause who doesn’t want more flowers in their life?), she was more than happy to share.
“As soon as I could hold a stem my mom had me working in her store packing boxes for like, 5 cents. But instead of seeing it as a laborious job, it was an adventure. When my parents had to work all night, for example, the day before Valentine’s Day, my brother and I would take our sleeping bags and sleep at the store. It was so awesome because the shop was in a mall and we would watch the cleaners sweep the floors at 5am in the morning. To us, that was so cool.”
As an adult, Lynda reconnected with flowers when she helped her mom at her flower shop. After working as a buyer for Holt Renfrew she had had enough of the fashion world and being around flowers who, ‘didn’t talk back or give you grief’, afforded her time to contemplate her next move. As luck would have it, Lynda had a friend working on the TV series Due South and they were looking for a florist. She got the job and became the go-to flower lady, styling flowers for a variety of TV pilots and movies. “Working in television forced me to think on a much larger scale and become even more creative,” she says. She still props flowers for the TV beat (Suits, Orphan Black, So You Think You Can Dance Canada) does smaller jobs (side note: she did the flowers for my wedding, and they were ah-ma-zing!), and is an award-winning stylist and all-around creative curator. She even cofounded the online décor magazine Covet Garden, a cult fave among the design-set. Sadly, it’s no longer in production, and when asked about starting it back up again, Lynda tells us, ‘never, say never.’
Lynda’s 5 favourite blooms for spring and summer…
Craspedia: “I love a dark, eggplant shade.”
Sweet pea: “They’re out right now and I’m a bit obsessed.”
Chocolate anemones: “Simplicity at its best.”
Ranunculus: “They’re one of my favourites for weddings.”
Juliet garden rose: “Their fragrance is incredible—an authentic garden rose smell. They are big and instead of being round, they open flat. They’re just so meaty and delicious!”
Lynda tips on shopping, arranging, and storing blooms…
1. Trust the pros. When looking to create a floral arrangement, believe it or not, don’t provide too much direction. People look in the fridge and become very specific, such as, I’d like two of those, three of that…sometimes the bouquet can end up looking hodge-podgy. If you’re at a reputable shop, leave it to the experts. We’ll know what flowers work well together. For example, poppies are finicky and don’t mix well with others. The stems are actually toxic and you have to singe the edges with a lighter. And some flowers don’t like each others’ bacteria and are super-sensitive to anything that they drink.
2. Flowers are living things. Flowers are always thirsty. Don’t forget to top up the water if you have them in a vessel, and avoid putting them in direct sun. A cool spot in the house is the best environment to help them last. To keep them looking fresh, recut the stems every few days. The shorter you keep the stems, the quicker water can reach the bud. I like using a sharp knife and cutting on an angle, especially with woodier stems like a hydrangea, lilac or rose. Just think of a straw; the end shouldn’t be flat or else they can’t take up the water. If you only have scissors, make sure they’re sharp. Dull scissors can pinch the stem making it hard to let water in. And don’t worry about using preservatives, putting a penny in the water, or even ginger ale to help flowers last longer. If they came from a good florist you shouldn’t have to worry about that since the shop would have conditioned the flowers when they came in.
3. Think seasonal. It’s just a fact that seasonal flowers in the fall last longer than seasonal flowers in the spring. Flowers just like to be in cooler spaces. Also, if you’re getting married, or throwing an important event where you’ll need flowers, know that certain blooms will cost more if they’re out of season. For example, if you want hyacinth or peonies in November or December, you may end up paying $20 a bloom instead of $5. Tip: the best time for peonies is end of May and the month of June.
4. Don’t forget the green. Flowers require assistance to keep their form, while needing room to open. A bunch of greens or a big hydrangea can provide stability and hold the shape of the flowers (this also means you’ll need less flowers). Greenery to me is just as important and beautiful as the flowers, even helping to complete the look. I love using eucalyptus, ferns, ivy, berries and gardenia leaves.
5. Be open-minded. I love flowers that are a bit ‘off’. If you pick something that has a bend to it like a craspedia, let it go off to the side or do whatever it wants and create its own shape. It’s more fun that way. Some will hang down, some will keep growing such as tulips—that’s why they droop after a while—just let the flower dictate. Also, try a bloom that you wouldn’t normally choose. For example right now there’s this anti-carnation thing going on. I love me a carnation. Clumped together they’re like a little ball of fun. Plus, they come is so many colours and last forever (up to 10 days if they’re cut properly and are kept out of the sun). Some people also don’t want roses but there are some beautiful garden roses that open bigger than a peony and stay open for days.